Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

PERSONAL BEST


My older son, Patrick [the famous chess Grandmaster], and his wife, Diana Schneider, started a charitable fund several years ago.  They raise money by putting on an annual conference that business people pay to attend and they distribute the funds they raise to worthy educational projects in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they live.  I have from time to time mentioned University Scholarships for South African Students, a charitable 501(c)(3) fund which I started to help Black students to attend historically Black universities in South Africa.  I think Patrick and Diana have raised more in the several years they have been running their conference than I managed to raise for USSAS in a quarter of a century.

This put me in mind of something once said to me by my younger son, Tobias.  Tobias is not only a brilliant legal scholar.  He is also in spectacular shape.  When I see him and give him a parental embrace, I feel as though I were hugging a tree.  He works out at gyms wherever he is.  Eight years ago, when Susie and I moved to Chapel Hill, I started going each morning to the nearby Wellness Center, where I would walk for a half hour on the treadmill, slowly increasing the speed and raising the angle at which I was “climbing.”  Like as not, right next to me would be a trim young man or woman running full tilt at an even greater angle.  When I mentioned this to Tobias one day, he said, “Dad, there is always going to be someone faster or stronger than you.  You must concentrate on your personal best.”  That makes me feel better when I compare my rather feeble fund-raising with Patrick and Diana’s much more spectacular success.

I had occasion this morning to call up Tobias’ wise words yet again.  My standard morning walk here in Paris takes me along the quais on the Left Bank, a favored route for runners.  There are always dozens of men and women pounding past me, some wearing shirts with the message “Finisher in 20k Race” and the like.  That does not bother me.  I never liked to run even when I was a young man, so I just stand aside and let them breeze past me.  But this morning a young woman in high heels, hurrying to work passed me, and that sort of depressed me.  So I bethought myself of Tobias’ wise words, and concentrated on my personal best.

Of course, at my age, even that has slipped somewhat.  My daily walk in Chapel Hill used to take me exactly one hour, but now it takes an hour and twelve minutes.  I have, as they say in baseball, lost a few steps.  I imagine that when I am ninety it will take me an hour and a half or more.  I will cling to Tobias’ wisdom.

7 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

Professor Wolff,

You're in great shape. I'm 70 and women in high heels pass me all the time, even though, like you, I walk every day.

Tom Cathcart said...

Our noticing these changes seems to come in quanta rather than waves. At 6'5", I have very long legs, and I wasn't used to people passing me. Then one day I suddenly realized that nearly everybody was passing me. It must have been coming on gradually, but I didn't see it. There's also an Einsteinian element. Time must move more slowly as we get older, because it seems like we're moving at the same speed we always did, until we see our movement in comparison to someone else or to the hands of a watch. (That would be a "vintage watch," when they still had hands. Do toddlers still learn to "tell time?"). Maybe it's that our subjective perception of time stems from the speed of motion of our bodies.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Ah, you tall ones. I was 5'9 in my prime, and now, horribile dictu, I am 5' 6 1/2!

s. wallerstein said...

Tom Cathcart,

I have a clock for a superego, so I never needed to look at others or at a watch to see that I was moving more slowly as I got older. That internal clock, which never lets up nor lets me relax much, makes me aware that I'm slower now.

Professor Wolff,

I guess that your friend Kant had a clock for superego too, so maybe Kant and I will get along well.

Tom Cathcart said...

Interesting that as we get older, we seem to get more interested in phenomenology!! (Of what it's like to get old.) I don't remember thinking much about what it's like to be young.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Indeed, he was so punctual with his daily walk that the people of Konigsberg set their clocks by him. The one day he was late was the day a copy of Rousseau's EMILE arrived.

s. wallerstein said...

When we're young, we assume that the way we are is "natural": how it feels to get old is a surprise and thus, we pay attention to it as we do to any break in the routine, be it pleasant (a vacation) or unpleasant (illness or pain, etc.).